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Sierra Zulu is a dark political sci-fi action comedy about the grotesque world we live in. And it has a frickin' creature!

Sierra Zulu is a dark political sci-fi action comedy about the grotesque world we live in. Let’s call it the bastard offspring of Catch-22 and Buckaroo Banzai, reborn with the soul of Harun Farocki.

It is a feature film for activists and pessimists, historians and makers, diplomats and mercenaries, hot tub lovers and peasants, cell biologists and beer punks. And it has a bloody CREATURE!

Wonderful actors, such as Robert Picardo, Amber Benson, Jello Biafra and The Yes Men want to be part of Sierra Zulu.

Sierra Zulu is a project by art tech theory group monochrom -- and produced by the Vienna-based film production company Golden Girls.

A ragtag UN peacekeeping force operates a small camp guarding the no-man’s-land between Austria and the tiny agrarian microstate Soviet Unterzoegersdorf, the last existing bastion of the defunct Soviet Union. When an explosion occurs deep inside Soviet territory, the team is dragged into a bizarre conspiracy of industrial espionage, media madness and political intrigue. The knowledge economy? It’s about to get blown sky high...

But... but.. but... you guys usually give away your stuff for free! Can’t you find other ways to get money?

Over the past 20 years, monochrom has created hundreds of projects. Zines, musicals, pranks, space sitcoms, computer games, cocktail robot shows, interventions, short films, nerd art, books, sex tech conferences, activist science, premature burials... you name it. We have provided a predominant part of our cultural output for free thanks to grants and other financial resources that enabled us to function independent of income. However, creating a full-length feature film with an appealing set design is a different story. That’s why we need you!

What are you going to do with your Kickstarter $50k?

We know exactly how to make amazing projects work on a shoestring budget and have figured out this is exactly what we need to build the Soviet Unterzoegersdorf set. By backing this project, when you watch the final film you’ll see exactly where your cash went! Of course, the more we bring in with our Kickstarter campaign, the more freedom we’ll have to make our vision come true. The more money, the better for the movie and its artistic integrity. No bullshit.

Of course we could have tried to raise the set production from grants and institutions we've worked with before. However, this turned out to be more complicated than we thought. And we dislike ass-kissing the Western private and government sector.

Comradettes! Comrades! In the spirit of the great Communist workers we wanted to give everyone a chance to contribute to this project!

Why is the digital revolution such an important theme in your film? (But please, no spoilers!)

Movies are exciting. People go to the cinema in order to experience new worlds. But cinema is about to lose its prime source of narrative, having been tethered thus far to physical action that can be easily filmed. Cinema needs tempo, it needs speed. The “movement-image” (oh Gilles Deleuze!) depends on tangible, concrete physical action onto which the cameras can point. Yet in contrast, the real world of non-cinema is losing physical action day by day. It is a time of the abstract, optically intangible processes of networks and data systems. This regress of visual displayability is rather daft. Cinema has thrived on the visable for more than a hundred years. It’s easy to create a feature film about a bank robbery, but that’s anachronistic. Some of the most important crimes are invisible, such as electronic money movements between international stock exchanges. Hollywood cinema on the other hand still hasn’t evolved beyond anything better than banal sequences straight out of an Errol Flynn movie. How can we portray the stories and fairy tales of our (new) world? All those dramas and comedies? All those stories and atrocities? Well, we want to try it. We want to distill our view into a 90 minute narration of a dark, humorous story about the problems of the 21st century.

So it’s a funny film about serious topics?

Indeed. It’s something for everyone. Friends of a good old LOL as well as people who like to delve into the many layers of cultural criticism and nerdish references. We aim to use stylistic elements of the black comedy and the farce to deal with the fundamental questions of the digital frontier while also tackling problems of national supremacy, international conflict solving strategies, national and international legislation, the power of the media, and the diplomatic impotency of international organizations. Sierra Zulu wants to explore the perspectives of people who live on the fringes of what we would call “history” or “the world”. This fringe area – surrounded by the European Union – is where we find the microstate Soviet Unterzoegersdorf, the almost forgotten ‘last autonomous republic of the Soviet Union’ which has fallen victim to its geo-political, historical, cultural, and economical irrelevance. This village of 1,500 people is the last paragon of ideals which have been eradicated from the face of the earth with Soviet-Communism. Sierra Zulu is about implanting false memories into the political and cultural record of our modern world, simulating the effects of this partial and local rewriting of history through the initiation of an entire network of events caused by this transposition. Or to put it differently: how would our current reality react to a Soviet Unterzoegersdorf? And what does a “Soviet Hicksville” have to contribute to the betterment of humankind? In a time of global discussions about topics like internet censorship, leaked cables and robot killer drones, the world needs to hear the answers offered by a couple of Soviets in the middle of nowhere. Really, we mean it.

Soviet Unterzoegersdorf seems to be a recurring theme in monochrom’s work, doesn’t it?

Yes, Sir! We had the basic idea to create the last existing republic of the Soviet Union in the late 1990s to commemorate and celebrate the demise of State Communism.

"Soviet Unterzoegersdorf" is a project that has been developed through a series of individual projects.

Some examples:

  • We invited people to take a bus trip to Soviet Unterzoegersdorf... well actually the real hamlet of Unterzoegersdorf which we gussied up in Soviet glory. Austrian police tried to arrest us, but we made such convincing Soviet citizens that they declared: “They are idiots, let’s just go.”
  • The "Hyper-Hegel", a product of Soviet engineering, was introduced to an enraptured public at multiple international art exhibitions and technology trade fairs. After heating the device with wood, the attendants were able to play the tactic simulation "Tetris" as long as the computer's temperature could be held at 1500° Celsius. (What a gameplay!)
  • The computer games (of the "point-and-click adventure" genre) "Soviet Unterzoegersdorf: Sector 1" and "Sector 2" were developed. “Sector 1” is available as a free download on our site and has so far been downloaded nearly 1 million times. The game received various media prizes and was declared best internet game by "The Edge" in November 2005. "Sector 2" has also been available for free download since February 2009, featuring guest stars like Cory Doctorow, Bruce Sterling and Bre Pettis. The computer game caused global awareness of "Soviet Unterzoegersdorf". It has also been featured in a plethora of internet reports on top blogs such as Boing Boing (amongst others, on the initiation of diplomatic relations between Soviet Unterzoegersdorf and Google).

An archeology of hopes?

Indeed. Soviet-Unterzögersdorf is a place where the "Archeology of hopes" can take place, "buried with the victims of oppression, devoid of deliverance, in order to keep it awake, make it visible, make it audible" as meant by Walter Benjamin. Where the utopian aspect of communism was preserved. Or let’s say: where there can still be a utopia, because utopia isn’t crushed by its own frickin' weight. This is the story Sierra Zulu wants to continue.

We can’t really tell too much about it, but we are very proud that we received excellent reviews from our script consultants Ruth McCance, Ben Rock and Tore Schmidt. Blush! Blush!

"In almost twenty years of working with the development of film and television fiction projects, I have not yet met another project with the level of wit, humour, energy and satirical gusto of Sierra Zulu.  It manages to be hilarious yet deeply intelligent and serious at the same time. I applaud the ambition of this project, feel priviliged to have had the opportunity of meeting and working with its creators, and look forward to laughing through the finished film and pondering the issues it touches on for some time afterwards." (Ruth McCance / BBC, Pathe Pictures)

With the help of many people, we managed to create a 16 minute short-film prequel for Sierra Zulu. We tried to tell an interesting part of pre-story without giving away the plot of the feature film. The mood of the prequel is, we have to mention, different from the feature film. Earthmoving is a slow chamber play. Sierra Zulu will be very fast, a lot of action.

Prequel production? We only had a day and a half to shoot (which created a distinct Ed Wood feeling), and a week to do post-pro (booohooo!), so it was a pretty boom-boom-boom-way to make this piece happen -- but we are pretty happy with the outcome.
Prequel cast? Some great Austrian, British and American actors. Trivia: Jeff Ricketts (who plays the Dutch general Van Hulzen) will be the only actor who will reprise his role in the feature film.

We already attracted amazing talent to the production. We got a ton of Letters of Intent!  We constantly update our performers page. We also want to mention that we still need to cast 2/3 of our actors!

Come on! Namedropping, please?

Robert Picardo (best known as The Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager)
Amber Benson
(best known as Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Jello Biafra (best known as the former lead singer of the Dead Kennedys)
Steve "Woz" Wozniak (co-founder of Apple; we offered him a voice role via email, and he agreed! Yeah!)
Max Grodénchick (best known as Rom on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
The Yes Men (our favorite pranksters)
Jeff Ricketts (appeared in all three series created by Joss Whedon: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly)
Joi Ito (influential internet entrepreneur and head of the MIT Media Lab)
Alfons Haider (one of Austria's top TV personalities)
Michael Ostrowski (influential Austrian comedian)

So many great professionals are already on board.
Please check our workforce page.

Some examples?

Mark Mothersbaugh (Original Score; Emmy award-winning composer, co-founder of the new wave band Devo)
Aaron Muszalski (CGI/VFX; Lucasfilm and ILM veteran)
Khris Brown (Casting US; won recognition from both AMPAS & BAFTA)
Steve Tolin (Creature Effects; FX props and puppeteer maestro)
Oxblood Ruffin (Digital Politics Consulting; cDc hacktivist)
Sean Bonner (Media Consulting)
Ryan Finnigan (Special Effect Props, Metalwork)
Josh Ellingson (Graphic Design; clients like Wired Magazine, Popular Science, Hasbro, Adobe Systems)

After we finished the script, we started working on storyboard drawings and concept art.
We have a metric ton of material. But we are reluctant to show you all the stuff, especially the awesome concept art for the above mentioned CREATURE, because it would be a MAJOR spoiler.

A Soviet Unterzoegersdorf cosmonaut?
A Soviet Unterzoegersdorf cosmonaut?
A Soviet Unterzoegersdorf athlete?
A Soviet Unterzoegersdorf athlete?
Is it “Categorical Imperative”? Soviet Unterzoegersdorf’s beloved crane?
Is it “Categorical Imperative”? Soviet Unterzoegersdorf’s beloved crane?
Amber Benson? Is it you? And what happend to Max Grodenchik?
Amber Benson? Is it you? And what happend to Max Grodenchik?
Robert Picardo? You seem irate!
Robert Picardo? You seem irate!

Our idea is to have a musical score that uses a Casio MT-100 keyboard as the primary instrument, but over time expands to also use a classic brass band.

Backstory: Yaphet Okuna -- the Nigerian UN soldier in the camp -- is playing a Casio MT-100 in his spare time. It helps him to forget his troublesome past in the Nigerian civil war and functions as an outlet for his emotions.
The first act of the movie is only using Okuna’s cover versions of pop songs as the soundtrack. We consider how Okuna would perform songs, given the actual limitations of the keyboard, and what kind of arrangement will serve the tone of the scene where the song is used. We like the verité aspect of this truly diegetic introduction. Here is an example, a draft version of Okuna’s take on “Crazy”: Crazy Draft MP3.
The second act uses the keyboard as the main instrument for the actual original score.
The third act introduces the Soviet brass band, joining the keyboard and making the soundtrack richer and more forceful for the big showdown.

Mark Mothersbaugh
wants to compose the original score. Damien DiFede is arranging the pop songs for Okuna’s play.

We have been scouting for almost a year for the many locations we need.

Some examples?
Sure!

Here’s an image taken at the military proving ground in Großmittel/Austria. We plan to use it as the location of the no man’s land and want to build the UN camp in the middle of the huge empty zone in the center of the military area.
Here’s an image taken at the military proving ground in Großmittel/Austria. We plan to use it as the location of the no man’s land and want to build the UN camp in the middle of the huge empty zone in the center of the military area.
Photoshopped example of location in Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. The original images were taken in Unterzoegersdorf, Austria.
Photoshopped example of location in Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. The original images were taken in Unterzoegersdorf, Austria.
Photoshopped example of location in Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. The original images were taken in Unterzoegersdorf, Austria.
Photoshopped example of location in Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. The original images were taken in Unterzoegersdorf, Austria.
Photoshopped example of location in Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. The original images were taken in Unterzoegersdorf, Austria.
Photoshopped example of location in Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. The original images were taken in Unterzoegersdorf, Austria.
Minor interior details in Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. The images were taken at the Stasi Museum in Berlin.
Minor interior details in Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. The images were taken at the Stasi Museum in Berlin.
Minor interior details in Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. The images were taken at the Stasi Museum in Berlin.
Minor interior details in Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. The images were taken at the Stasi Museum in Berlin.

July 3, 2012, 7 PM
Opening Celebrations at Soviet War Memorial in Vienna
8:30 PM: Molotov cocktails and special beer at “The Flying Pig” Pub (Kirchbergasse 7, 7th district) - Food: Borscht and Blinies

July 13, 2012, 9 PM
At HOPE Conference in New York City, Hotel Pennsylvania
Lecture performance "Sierra Zulu: How To Create A Feature Film About The Digital Age -- And Why That’s Pretty Hard"

July 16, 2012, 7 PM
A Soviet Drink-Up at Beer Authority in Manhattan
613 8th Avenue (corner of 40th street across from Port Authority)

July 17, 2012, 7 PM
A Soviet BBQ at Bar Alexandraplatz in Montréal, Canada
6731 rue de l’Esplanade, Montréal, Canada

July 19, 2012, 7 PM thru 8:30 PM
A Soviet BBQ in Indianapolis, IN
Ellenberger Park, 5301 E. St. Clair St. (check intersection of Ritter and St. Clair)

July 21, 2012, 7 PM
A Soviet BBQ in Columbia, Missouri
Location: 300 McNab Drive, Columbia, MO

July 22, 2012, 7 PM
At Kansas City Hackerspace CCCKC
440 East 63rd Street, Kansas City, MO
Lecture performance "Sierra Zulu: How To Create A Feature Film About The Digital Age -- And Why That’s Pretty Hard"

July 24, 2012, 7 PM
A Soviet Occupation in San Francisco
Location: 19th and Dolores... please come in proper Soviet attire!

July 29, 2012, 2 PM
Closing Celebrations in Los Angeles
A Soviet Picnic at Old Zoo at Griffith Park

Soviet Unterzoegersdorf Ambassador N. P. Chrusov. Image by Scott Beale.
Soviet Unterzoegersdorf Ambassador N. P. Chrusov. Image by Scott Beale.

FAQ

  • Henry (who is British) "discovered" that some reward levels mention screen credits for the supporter, some don't! This alarmed Henry.

    A: Stop shivering, proletarian! All donations over $10 include a screen credit!

    Last updated:
  • Very good question from user Sky on the Boing Boing forum!

    A: Yes, comradette, Sierra Zulu will pass the Bechdel test. Proudly!

    Last updated:
  • Mr. Anonymous posted an interesting question on 4chan.

    A: No.

    Last updated:
  • A good question by comradette Rachel Lovinger.

    A: Yes. (See: Dialectical materialism)

    Last updated:
  • A sencere and straight question by the entity "Johnny5000".

    A: The Ministry of Agricultural Crops Cultivation in close cooperation with the Institute of Atheist Science has finally produced the first sugar-beet of our nation! After years of relentless gene-splicing, this is a massive step! One beet produces about 16-17% of sugar. “We will eat pie”, said the Head of our Baked Goods Co-op. Scientists from the project-group itself may not be as enthusiastic, however predict that the first sowings can begin in March three years from today.

    Last updated:
  • A question by A. from B.

    A: Our future needs to be like the sound of 'Blood, Sweat & Tears': predicable, yet full of joy.

    Last updated:
  • Comrades O., B. and D. ask a very precise question. And we answer precise.

    A: As the proud people of Soviet Unterzoegersdorf are getting grants from the "Austrian" and "German" government, they have to "play along" their "rules" -- and that means "no" to digital downloads. But make the film happen and it will show up on Pirate Bay. What did you expect?

    Last updated:
  • Aaron B. has a point. Well, young man, here is our answer.

    A: Yesterday an unannounced visit of Military Testing Facility III (north of the National Granary) took place. This is the storage place for some of the warheads disarmed after the ratification of the SALT II agreement between Jimmy Carter and Leonid Breshnev in 1979. Some of the insignias on the missiles have to be updated to reflect changing geopolitical conditions. [Name censored] proudly inspected the industrial insignias of military power.

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    Gravel, the Fundament of our State! Give us $39 (bah, Bretton-Woods, bah!) to tell our story and you will receive a precious (and collectable) piece of our homeland! The Soviet Unterzoegersdorf Academy of Earth Handling will include a limited certificate of origin! (And your name on the silver screen!)

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    People's General Pavel Protin, nicknamed 'Pavel the Prole', was one of the VIPs (Very Important Proletarian) of Soviet Unterzoegersdorf. As a special remembrance reward we offer a 3D-printed bust of the People’s General! For only $42! This fine item made of heat-squirted plastic is limited and will never ever be posted on Thingiverse! Artifical scarcity, but in a memorable way!

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    People on the international network demand a reward including a copy of the film in a lower price segment! Bolsheviks! Do not worry! We listen to the people! It is our profession! Henceforth, we shall offer a proletarian, unlimited, unsigned and completely regular "DVD" of "Sierra Zulu" for "$54". It will also include a small cardboard Soviet.

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    Soviet Unterzoegersdorf Green Card Bonus Pack!! You will receive an official, customized immigration document AND get your name in the credits AND you can pick one of many rare offerings from the monochrom back catalogue. For shipping outside of Europe, please add $10. (Disclaimer: Immigration document does not actually confer any legal rights outside of the purely fictional plot lines of Soviet Unterzoegersdorf and Venezuela.)

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    Soviet Unterzoegersdorf Ambassador Chrusov received 5 (in words: five) LPs with works of US American musician and spoken word artist Jello Biafra! All records are signed by Jello Biafra. The LPs cleared censorship and are currently stored in the bathroom of Ambassador Chrusov’s motel room in San Mateo (California). Donate $105 and pick one! An occasion for collectors and other exploiters! First come, first serve!

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    Soviet Unterzoegersdorf tried to establish its own "video disk" standard, but failed, because they didn’t embrace the porn market. Nevertheless: Donate over $129 and you will receive a limited edition DVD (signed by celebs) plus a Sierra Zulu movie poster (signed by even more celebs), plus a special Soviet gift (signed by an unknown soldier). (Disclaimer: DVD is a dying medium. It might end up being a Blu-Ray.)

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    You filthy rich reactionary! You are our Associate Producer (Defcon 3)! You get a dinner with our director and members of the cast (not only Blinies, we promise) for you and some of your friends. And of course all the posters and a DVD! And a customized oil painting of you and your friends in a traditional Soviet Unterzoegersdorf setting! Plus a one-of-a-kind movie prop! (Disclaimer: Travel to the location of the premiere and accommodation is not included in this package.)

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Funding period

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